Early in the morning on Christmas Eve, Thalassa found her mother alone in the kitchen.
“Have you got a minute, Ma?” she asked. “I’ve got something I need to talk to you about, and it’s neither simple nor easy.”
Her mother looked worried.
“It’s not bad!” Thalassa said quickly. “Or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s an opportunity. For me. Or maybe even for all of us.”
“Well, in that case,” said Cinnamon, breaking into a smile and a sigh of relief and pleasure.
“Clue me in, daughter-mine,” she said.
Thalassa smiled, more to herself than to her mother. She expected her mom to rush to embrace any opportunity, especially any opportunity that presented itself to her favorite and only daughter. But this one came with a price. This one came with the need to ask a huge favor.
Her mom looked like she could handle it. Thalassa had been pleasantly surprised by her mother’s health and spirits. The house and garden were well-kept and the kitchen well-stocked. Her mother seemed to have energy to spare.
“I haven’t accepted it yet,” Thalassa began. She’d learned as a teen that if her mom felt like she was part of the decision-making process, it was a lot easier for her to get to do what she wanted.
“But you will,” replied her mom.
“I seriously haven’t decided,” said Thalassa.
“Right,” said Cinnamon, “which is why you’re bringing it up now.”
“It’s a big deal,”Thalassa continued. “And it won’t just affect me. It’ll affect you and the kids, and even Stellar, too, I suppose.”
“What will affect me?” said Kumar who’d come in for his breakfast cookie.
“Something I’m thinking about,” replied Thalassa.
“As long as I get cookies for breakfast, everything’s OK by me!” Kumar chuckled.
“I’m guessing this is a professional decision,” said Cinnamon. “About your job.”
“It is,” replied Thalassa. When Kumar took his cookie downstairs, she explained that she’d been offered a position through Doctors Without Borders at a refugee camp in Turkey. “They need my expertise,” she said.
“Then what’s the issue?”
“It’s not in a secure area. It’s dangerous. I can’t bring the kids.”
“Ah,” said Cinnamon.
“Yeah,” said Thalassa. “It’s been kind of scary a few times already. Calcutta was pretty rough. That’s why I took the administrative job in Brussels. It seemed better for all of us. But it’s not a good use of my skills, Ma, sitting behind a desk. My specializations can really help out there in the field. It’s just that, well. Those places are no places for kids.”
“So I guess that means you’re needing a safe place for them to stay,” said Cinnamon. “Does it mean that much to you to take the position?”
“Well, like I said, I haven’t decided yet. It’s not that long of an assignment–just three months. And I’m just checking my options to see if I can even consider it.”
“Right,” replied Cinnamon.
Cinnamon washed her hands and poured herself a cup of tea.
“You know there’s that opening in the free clinic in town if you’re interested. They could use your expertise, too,” she said. “I know you always feel like you need to do what you need to do. I know you want to have the freedom to always be able to make the best decision you can. Your kids are important, and they need you. And there are sick people even here that could be helped by you. But I suppose you also feel that where the need is greatest, that’s where you need to be.” Cinnamon sighed. “Whatever you feel pulled to do, do it. Your kids can stay here with me and Stellar.”
Her mom sighed once more, a heavy sigh this time, and walked out of the kitchen.
There were needs, and there were needs, thought Thalassa. Her children would have their needs met here. Any other general practitioner could fill the opening at the free clinic. But there weren’t that many doctors with the specific combination of skills–medical, linguistic, clinical, personal, and psychological–to be able to serve at the refugee camp.
She wasn’t afraid of the danger for herself, and if her children were assured of a safe life here, then did it matter that much if she put herself in a position requiring extra vigilance while serving those who needed her?
Well, she didn’t have to make up her mind today. It was Christmas Eve and there were carols to sing and neighbors to visit and stories to tell before the big celebration tomorrow.